Inventor of Kevlar®
Stephanie Kwolek, the famous woman inventor and scientist, wanted to study medicine while growing up in New Kensington, Pennsylvania, and that desire persisted as she worked toward her B.A. in chemistry at Carnegie Mellon University. After finishing her degree, however, Kwolek took a temporary research position with DuPont, where her work turned out to be so interesting that she decided to stay on.
One of the first women research chemists, she first gained national recognition in 1960 for her work with long molecule chains at low temperatures. In 1971, Kwolek's further analysis culminated in an important discovery of a liquid crystalline polymer solution. Its exceptional strength and stiffness led to the invention of Kevlar®, a synthetic material that is five times as strong as steel.
Kevlar® is resistant to wear, corrosion and flames, and it is the main ingredient in the production of bulletproof vests, which have become invaluable to legions of soldiers and law enforcement officers. Furthermore, Kevlar® is used in dozens of other products, including skis, safety helmets, hiking and camping gear, and suspension bridge cables.
Kwolek's research efforts have resulted in her being the recipient or co-recipient of 17 U.S. patents. This noted woman inventor also has received such prestigious accolades as the Kilby Award, the National Medal of Technology and the 1999 Lemelson-MIT Lifetime Achievement Award.
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Stephanie Kwolek, Inventor of Kevlar®
Innovative Lives: Stephanie Kwolek, Woman Inventor